Evil Angel would never have worn those pants

That’ll keep you from flouting established canon

Did I call “She” the worst episode ever?  That judgment still stands, but “Eternity” does make a worthy run for the cup and leaves me yearning for the relative fun and coherence of “The Ring.”  There’s an awful lot to hate about this episode, but I’ll focus the outrage-inducing departure from established mythology.  Angel is good because he has a soul. He loses his soul when/if he experiences a moment of perfect happiness.  So, the euphoria of drug use qualifies as perfect happiness?  Okaaay, that’s a big stretch, but I’ll bite… except why does Angel regain his soul once the drugs wear off?  The curse is pretty specific about the whole “moment” thing, there’s nothing there about the soul returning when he gets cranky.  I’m pretty sure that’s backed up by the fact that Angelus didn’t spend season two is some sort of euphoric orgy.

Maybe this isn’t Angelus, just an uninhibited version of Angel.  I could buy the idea that Angel’s coping with barely restrained bloodlust; Boreanaz’s performance is certainly a far cry from the calculating monster we love to hate.  That’s not really a good thing, as he just comes off as confused about how to play this.  Worse, the show goes out of its way to emphasize that this really is Angelus.  The episode serves as a cliff’s notes for anyone who never saw Buffy’s second season; the words “perfect happiness” were used more times than I can count.  Wes’s insistence that “this isn’t real” only serves to confuse the issue and leave us wondering just what the hell it is.

How is it that a fantasy-horror series built on twisting the genre’s conventions could induce such outrage by playing fast and loose with its own lore?  Because it’s still, at its core, a fantasy-horror series and much as its fans are smart enough to follow it to strange new places, there are certain conventions we aren’t willing to give up.  Namely, that fantasy worlds still have to have their own internal logic.  It’s an old requirement, near the front of How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, magic needs to have rules.  I can see why “rules” might be a dirty word in the M.E. writing room, but creative freedom without creative structure is nonsense… which is about the only word to describe what happens to Angel here.  We know why he’s a “good vampire” and what circumstances could lead his becoming a “bad vampire.”  These things are kinda important to how we understand the character.

Final Thoughts

I might be more forgiving of this blithe disregard for the established universe if it had been used to take us somewhere good.  As it stands, this isn’t the Angelus we love to hate.  Yes, we’ve got some of the old verbal sadism going on, but his torment of Buffy (and Spike) was far more subtle.  The Angelus we know is a poet of pain, this guys just seems like a standup comic.

I’d also be more forgiving if the buildup was better.  Did anyone feel much sympathy for whatshername?  Did anyone believe for a second that she and Angel had this instant connection?  And that it could be so strong he’d be remotely tempted to sleep with her?

Cordy and Wes at least had solid moments in defeating fake-Angelus, although that only serves to further undermine his status as a villain.

This episode really just strikes me as an ill-conceived effort to shoe-horn Angelus into the season.  Yes, the evil alter-ego is something that we all want to see, but you need to do it right or not do it at all.

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2 responses to “Evil Angel would never have worn those pants

  1. This episode had some great potential, but it somehow failed to be even the sum of its parts. But it had some great potential.

    First, one subtle element of Angel I enjoyed was that the population of LA was aware there was more happening in their city then what they were being told. For example In S3 or S4 Angel meets a guy who mentions that Angel is spoken about in chat rooms and then there is Lorn’s bar. Rebecca’s ease in accepting that Angel is a vampire, could have been part of that plot, that the people know something, not much, but something. But they just treated it as narcissist’s plan to stay young in the film industry. And it isn’t even a good plan, because she wouldn’t be able to do any day-time filming. Maybe its a good joke about the film business, but it comes across as a 1960s Batman villain’s plot.

    And as you suggested, had they explored that Angel has a dark-side even with his soul. That even a man seeking redemption can choose to do evil (like smothering Wes with a pillow) that would be an interesting story to tell. But I suspect they for time reasons, and easier writing, took the easy way out and used the “curse” as a device to bring people into danger and quickly out of it. Xander had said it best, just because he has a soul doesn’t mean he is safe – that would have been a more interesting story to explore then what happens when someone slips you an ecstasy pill. And I agree they violated cannon with this drug, as Angel doesn’t become more like Angelus the happier he gets, it only occurs once he triggers “pure happiness” so its anti-cannon to suggest he can be triggered in this manner (if that was the case, in S4 Wes wouldn’t have needed the shaman)

    I like the term poet of pain. Angelus is a sadist. As D’Hoffryn said “why go for the kill, when you can go for the pain”. The beast who set the scene for Giles to find Jenny was not in this episode. The man who wrote “was it good for you too” wasn’t in this episode.

  2. Pingback: Final Thoughts: Angel Season One | Critical Viewing

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